On June 11, 1782, John Adams secured a much needed loan for the new Republic from Holland. How exactly did this work in the days of strictly paper currency? What did it mean to loan internationally back then (and even today)? Did Holland send their own currency? Did they send it in the form of some standard, i.e gold bullion? How did the U.S. pay this back? In some other standard? I just have no concept of how an international power could lend anything other than goods in the 18th century.

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    in the days of strictly paper currency. AFAIK most money those days circulated as bullion coins, not as fiat money.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 10, 2018 at 11:07
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    @Sjuan76 is correct; technically money at the time was backed by specie. There were exceptions - Rhode Island was largely paper money, and much of the South was (I believe) still backed by goods rather than specie. But in theory it was not paper money.
    – MCW
    Oct 10, 2018 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


It appears that the loan was issued in guilders and along the way was converted to dollars for transport to the US...

“Correspondence of the Late President Adams (Continued).” April 24, 1811. Excerpted from the Boston Patriot.

I then completed a new contract with the three houses, Wilhelm and Jean Willink, Nicholas and Jacob Vanstaphorst, and De La Lande and Fynjee. In the two former houses, the Willinks and Vanstaphorsts, I was not disappointed. De La Lande and Fynjee, in a few years failed [….] The Willinks and Vanstaphorsts continue, for any thing I know, to this day, 1810, bankers of the United States. I found them men of honor, and they borrowed for me, before I left Europe, nine millions of guilders, which enabled me to send, through the house of Le Couteuæ in Paris, by the way of the Havana, very large sums in dollars, to Mr. Robert Morris, the financier of congress; which enabled me not only to maintain myself in Holland, France and England, but to maintain Dr Franklin and Mr Jefferson in France. Not a livre could Dr. Franklin obtain from the French court, not even for his daily bread, after it was known I had money in Holland. […] John Adams Quincy, September 24, 1810


Elsewhere in the correspondence Adams states that the Dutch expected to be repaid as trade with the US would flourish.

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    So money was actually personally loaned to John Adams, not the United States government? He then converted this to U.S. dollars and personally loaned it to Mr. Robert Morris, the financier of congress, who presumably distributed it as necessary? Was Mr. John Adams therefore responsible for repayment of this loan or the United States government? Oct 10, 2018 at 20:01
  • @DylanRussell: The money was loaned to the US Government, with John Adams acting as agent for said government. Oct 12, 2018 at 13:01

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